ParEcon Questions & Answers

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Solidarity in Parecon?


Why solidarity?

Economies affect relations among people. What is our value for that? Solidarity conveys that an economy, by its intrinsic dynamics, by what it asks people to do and the ways it causes them to relate to one another, should produce mutual regard. Instead of the economy causing people to be antisocial, it should cause people to regard one another’s conditions with respect and mutual concern. Instead of pitting people against one another it should make people allies. In place of zero sum competition it should incorporate universal cooperation. Negotiation replaces coercion. This is what having solidarity as a value means for what one seeks.

In one economy, a person is brought up to be a caring individual. The person enters economic life and in his or her role in the economy the requisites of success require him or her to be callous toward others. The person doesn’t know who produces what he or she consumes, doesn’t know who consumes what he or she produces, doesn’t know the inputs to his or her outputs or their later and expanding effects. Even if a person wanted to be socially caring, taking into account the well being of others, lack of information would prevent is. But the situation is even worse

Each person, to succeed must keep his or her eyes on a singularly narrow zone of concern – his or her own personal narrow material fulfillment regardless of effects on others. More, to advance his or her own narrow and increasingly selfish fulfillment, most often people must act so as to diminish the fulfillment of other people. This describes an economy producing anti sociality even in people brought up by nurturance and home life to be caring and social. In this economy, that is, even the person inclined due to homelife to be solidaritious, even that person, to succeed in economic life must drop that inclination and often even give at most only self interested regard to the situation of others, acting most often to literally diminish and certainly not enhance the well being of others. There is no other road to personal gain. What we are describing, of course, is economics in context of market allocation.

In another economy, one consistent with solidarity, let’s consider a person who suffers harsh dynamics during nurturance and upbringing, as a result entering adult life with an antisocial inclination. Still, in this other economy, even this antisocially inclined person, if interested in personal development and advance, in personal fulfillment, has no choice but to pay attention to bettering the situation and conditions of others. In this different economy, this economy that fosters solidarity, my fulfillment is correlated to yours, and vice versa. Rather than getting ahead by leaving others behind, we get ahead only by others getting ahead too. In this type economy solidarity is literally produced as another output, being things, of production, consumption, and allocation. Even the person inclined to be antisocial, if he or she is to succeed in economic life must drop that persona and give caring regard to the situation of others. To prosper he or she must enhance and not diminish the well being of others. There is no other route to personal gain. What we are describing, we hope, will be economic life carried out in context of new institutions of a new type economy.


In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold;
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.
For the Union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever!
Solidarity forever!
Solidarity forever!
For the Union makes us strong.

We endorse solidarity. It is better if people get along with one another than if they violate one another. In two economies that equally respect and fulfill all other values we favor, would anyone deny that attaining more solidarity is better than attaining less?

To care about one another’s well-being as fellow humans is surely good. To view one another as objects to exploit or with other hostile intentions is surely bad. No one who is at all progressive would disagree. So clearly an economy that enhances solidarity by entwining people’s interests is better than an economy that yields precisely the same outputs and allocations, but creates hostility by pitting actors against one another.

Solidarity is, in fact, not a very controversial value. Who would prefer anti-sociality, other things equal. Only a perverse or psychotic soul.

vvNice, but perhaps a little more of a case, a little less drama…

Sorry, but I guess sometimes I think a little passion fits. In capitalism to get ahead one must trample others. To climb up in income and power you must ignore the horrible pain suffered by those left below or you must literally help to push them farther down. In capitalism not only do ”nice guys finish last” but in my own somewhat more aggressive formulation of the same sentiment, “garbage rises.”

Here is Ursula Leguin having a character in her famous and wonderful novel The Dispossessed wonder how anyone relating to a typical capitalist mall can responsibly act in light of the impact of their choices on others:

“Saemtenevia Prospect was two miles long, and it was a solid mass of things to buy, things for sale. Coats, dresses, gowns, robes, trousers, breeches, shirts, umbrellas, clothes to wear while sleeping, while swimming, while playing games, while at an afternoon party, while at an evening theatre, while riding horses, gardening, receiving guests, boating, dining, hunting—all different, all in hundreds of different cuts, styles, colors, textures, materials. Perfumes, clocks, lamps, statues, cosmetics, candles, pictures, cameras, hassocks, jewels, carpets, toothpicks, calendars, a baby’s teeth rattle of platinum with a handle of rock crystal, an electrical machine to sharpen pencils, a wristwatch with diamond numerals, figurines and souvenir and kickshaws and mementos and gewgaws and bric-a-brac, everything either useless to begin with or ornamented so as to disguise its use; acres of luxuries, acres of excrement. After one block, Shevek had felt utterly exhausted. He could not look any more. He wanted to hide his eyes. But to Shevek the strangest thing about the nightmare street was that none of the millions of things for sale were made there. They were only sold there. Where were the workmen, the miners, the weavers, the chemists, the carvers, the dyers, the designers, the machinists, where were the hands, the people who made? Out of sight, somewhere else. Behind walls. All the people in all the shops were either buyers or sellers. They had no relation to the things but that of possessions. How was he to know what a goods’ production entailed? How could they expect him to decide if he wanted something? The whole experience was totally bewildering. Were his hosts in this strange world, the ‘shoppers’ of A-lo, really capable of such daily acts of social irresponsibility?”

In contrast to the capitalist rat race, a good economy should be intrinsically a solidarity economy generating sociality rather than social irresponsibility. Its institutions for production, consumption, and allocation would propel even antisocial people into having to address other people’s well being to advance their own. To get ahead in a good economy, in other words, you would have to act on the basis of considering and respecting the conditions of others.

Interestingly, this first parecon value, so contrary to the capitalist logic of “me first and the rest be damned,” is entirely uncontroversial. It may be dramatic, but I have to repeast that as best I can see only a psychopath would argue that if we could have the same output, the same conditions, the same distribution of income, etc., an economy would be better if it produced hostility and anti-sociality in its participants than if it produced mutual concern and interconnection. Other than psychopaths, we all value solidarity and would prefer to do without humans trampling other humans.

Next Entry: Diversity?

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